Parallel Sessions 5: 12.10 – 13.10

PAPERS (25 minutes each)

12.10 – 12.35

Using an escape room approach to induct new students
Kate Coulson, Paul Rice, James Bywater
University of Northampton

After relocating to a brand-new campus in 2018, the Learning Development team at the University of Northampton wanted to ensure that all students had the opportunity to understand the space and ascertain how the Learning Development team (and the Library and Learning Services department) could support and advise them in their academic endeavours. We knew that the team would be teaching every undergraduate student during the academic year as part of the Integrated Learner Support project but we also wanted to ensure that the students knew about the team in their first week. To achieve this aim, we designed and created a fun activity to engage students and introduce them to the Learning Hub through problem solving and undertaking some generic academic skills. In Welcome Week 2019, a pilot study was rolled out and 400 new students undertook an “Open The Box” activity. All of the engagement occurred with students in situ but online using their phone, tablet or laptop. As part of this pilot we surveyed the participants to measure their experiences of the activity – their emotional response, whether they became familiar with the Learning Hub environment and their understanding of the Learning Services tools available to them. We had planned to share these experiences and also the feedback we received with 2020 ALDinHE Conference participants but due to COVID-19 that wasn’t possible. Instead, our focus turned to the development of a 100% online escape room activity for the 2020 student induction that allowed for delivery F2F or Online to ensure that all students could access the experience regarding external factors. This session will outline our prior experiences of escape room activities but mainly focus on the development, roll-out and reception given to the new activity called “The Induction Investigation” *We have selected the wildcard option but this could easily be a workshop or a paper presentation but we are very keen that participants undertake the activity.

Digital creativity: Enhancing academic, digital and information literacies
Susan Halfpenny, Stephanie Jesper
University of York

Creativity is an essential component of innovation and problem-solving, requiring imagination, and the ability to take risks, to produce something original (British Council, 2019). In the digital age, with AI, big data, and machine learning prevalent, creativity is considered a defining human quality: essential for innovative practice. Providing students with opportunities to engage in creative activities can therefore enable development of desirable skills for the digital workplace (Brynjolfsson & McAfee, 2016). At the University of York we have offered a supplementary digital and information literacy programme since 2016, to ensure students have the skills support required for achievement in their studies. To this end our programme is aligned to academic Programme Learning Outcomes and assessments. After developing the core programme, we began broadening our support offering. We identified ‘digital creativity’ as an enabler for problem solving, data literacy, research, and collaboration; allowing students to produce original outputs and develop core transferable skills for the classroom and beyond. With digital creativity as our driver, we expanded our programme to offer ‘Learning to code’, ‘Digital storytelling’, ‘Web development’ and ‘Digital creator’ workshops, combining academic, creative, digital, and information literacy skills that enable students to produce interactive digital artefacts. In this presentation we’ll explore content developed for our digital creativity workshops. We’ll cover the opportunities for collaboration with academic and professional services colleagues. We’ll also share insights from our attendance data and course evaluations to illustrate how the extension of our provision has reached new staff and student groups.


12.45 – 13.10

Resource in a Box: Why create Learning Development resources for post-16 students?
Amy West
University of Northampton

The ‘Resource in a Box’ project (University of Northampton, 2019) offers schools loan boxes of materials and plans, designed to give Y12/13 students experience of university-style learning. The resources may aid transition, offering a taste of university teaching and a link to Level 4 within school settings. Boxes created by Learning Developers focus on developing academic skills, such as my ‘Presenting Myself’ box. Boxes are used by school staff, without university staff to facilitate, expand or explain, and must therefore suit independent, off-campus use. I devised the resource to be a flexible tool, which reflects a diverse student base and accounts for students’ varied ‘next steps’. Responding creatively to adapt Learning Development content and techniques to this audience led me to design new activities; some of these are now used in university workshops. This is a valuable opportunity to advocate Learning Development within schools, demonstrating the scope of our supportive role and promoting Learning Development to future students at all universities. Resources were created to reflect Learning Development in a positive and approachable light. The project promotes Higher Education within all local schools, including those in our Widening Participation group. After pilot sessions in two schools, with approximately 25 students, the final resource is available to all local secondary schools. Research to evaluate the resource was limited due to Covid-19, but data was gathered from one school and indicated a positive response. The box was nominated for a University of Northampton Changemaker award 2019. 


WORKSHOPS (60 minutes)

Don’t say the ‘R’ word: Engaging with issues of race to enhance critical thinking
Ryan Arthur
Birkbeck College and London Metropolitan University

This workshop will put forward a case to embed controversial issues about race into the repertoire of learning development approaches. Specifically, in the realm of critical analysis, which is an oft-requested ‘skill’ that institutions require learning developers to transmit. Rather than seize such opportunities to discuss issues of our racialised or gendered beings, we often opt to use generic content around logical processes, and reasoning (Danvers, 2016), or present critical analysis as ‘a cognitive activity, associated with using the mind’ (Cottrell, 2011, p.1). It appears that there is some apprehension of learning developers to engage in uncomfortable conversations about race, in print and practice. The workshop will explore what prevents learning developers from this engagement and also argue why such an approach will benefit the students academically and emotionally. This discussion will be followed by an example of such an approach. The audience will experience a portion of a race-infused critical analysis workshop that I deliver to undergraduates. Tasked with fulfilling a ‘mundane’ goal of helping students understand a typical assignment, I will infuse the discussion with thought-provoking and stimulating conversations about our racialised beings. Since we do not work in idyllic institutions, the latter part of the workshop will discuss the institutional challenges and ethical dilemmas of employing such an approach.

Session plan:

  • 5 mins Introduction 
  • 10 mins Literature supported discussion on the lack of learning development publications that explicitly discuss race 
  • 5 mins Reflection on possible reasons for the lack of engagement 
  • 5 mins Literature supported discussion on the need to engage in conversations on race 
  • 5 mins A portion of a critical analysis workshop 
  • 10 mins A portion of a critical analysis workshop 
  • 10 mins Discussion on the challenges and ethical dilemmas of engaging in discussions of race

Drawing what you hear: creative solutions for teaching group work
Melanie Crisfield
Brunel University London

The ability to work effectively in a team is important both academically and professionally, and is often considered a key employability skill to be learned at university. Students need to learn to work in groups, but may not always be particularly enthusiastic about doing so, and thus the teaching of group work in an engaging and relevant way can be challenging. Theoretical teaching of group work processes needs to be grounded in a practical application, to ensure that students make the connection between concept and practice. To make this practice relevant for students, the application must be contextualised by connecting it to the students’ area of study and to their interests. To help develop first-year music students’ group work skills, a workshop was designed that incorporates using music to express an idea or concept and a structured observation of how the group functions. Students chose a short piece of music and then created a visual representation of that piece within half an hour. One student per group acted as the recorder, making note of how the group made decisions, how tasks were allocated, and how different roles were filled. At the end of the session, each recorder discussed the group’s process and how their group chose to represent their musical selection. The aim of this workshop is to give delegates a starting point for designing group work teaching activities that are based in the students’ discipline, thereby relating it to their learning needs and interests, while also creating a structured way in which to implement group work theory.

Session plan:

  • 10 minutes: discussion of how the session is run for first year music students and establishing rules for the activity 
  • 5 minutes: video that forms the basis of the activity 
  • 30 minutes: creation of visual artifact 
  • 15 minutes: summary from each group’s recorder of the group’s decision, process, and output

I think therefore I dress
Emma Davenport
London Metropolitan University

Within academia, we think about appearance all the time, whether interviewing potential colleagues, writing references for doctoral candidates, giving a lecture to students or presenting research at other institutions (Schneider, 1998; Kaiser, Chandler and Hammidi, 2001). Yet, in higher education, the topic of clothing and its role when it comes to being and becoming a professional has rarely been discussed or reflected upon in depth. Visual role models are therefore limited, in particular when it comes to examples of embodied learning and teaching (Weber and Mitchell, 1995). Drawing on the description ‘doing dress’ by Goodman, Knotts and Jackson (2007:101) where this daily practice is understood as critical to social and cultural agency, how might we reflect, share and consider how we ‘do dress’ in relation to both our learning and professional development within HE? How do choices about clothed appearances, accessories etc relate to personal, cultural and academic/professional values, which underpin our approaches to learning and teaching? With that in mind, I successfully applied for an ALDinHE Research Development Grant to develop, pilot and evaluate an academic development resource in the form of a one-hour workshop that invites participants to explore and reflect upon the role of dress in relation to the process of becoming an academic/learning developer. This paper is the opportunity to present the resource to the wider Learning Development community.